State inks port agreements with Carnival, NCL

  • The Norwegian Cruise Line vessel Pride of America is anchored March 12, 2020, in Kailua Bay. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • A tender makes it way from Kailua Pier to the Norwegian Cruise Line vessel Pride of America anchored in March in Kailua Bay. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • The Pride of America, seen in the back, was last anchored in Kailua Bay on March 12, 2020. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

The first port agreements with Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Lines to formalize health and safety protocols for the return of cruise line operations in Hawaii have been executed, the state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

The industry has been at a standstill in Hawaii since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The last cruise liner to visit Kailua-Kona was Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America on March 12, 2020.

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Under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Conditional Sail Order set to expire on Jan. 15, cruise lines with capacity to carry more than 250 people (combined passenger and crew) and itineraries including overnight stays are required to have a formal port agreement with local port and health authorities.

The port agreement must include a medical agreement outlining evacuation of passengers or crew in need of care; a housing agreement, should quarantine or isolation of passengers or crew be needed; and acknowledgment of the public health response resources of the local jurisdictions and vaccination strategies implemented by the cruise lines to minimize risk of spread of COVID-19.

The CDC order requires each ship to have on-board testing and medical staff to ensure proper prevention, mitigation and response protocols and training. Additionally, Carnival and NCL have committedto full vaccination rates in addition to preboarding testing and onboard safety and cleaning protocols.

In addition to the cruise line and CDC requirements, the state will require participation in the Safe Travels digital platform to upload proof of vaccination or negative test results for cruise lines arriving in Hawaii from outside the state. Safe Travels participation will not apply to cruise lines sailing interisland.

According to the state’s Hawaii Port Call website, the first Carnival vessel set to make call in Kailua-Kona is the Miracle on Jan. 16. Norwegian Cruise Line’s first call is Jan. 26 with the return of the Pride of America.

The signed port agreements will apply until superseded by a new agreement regardless of expiration of the CDC order. The agreement also allows the state to suspend, rescind or amend the document at any time in case of changing situations. Counties may also implement additional restrictions at any time.

Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay developing the “agreements with the goal of reducing potential negative impacts of cruise travel on our local health resources” included guidance from the Governor’s Office, CDC, state Department of Health, state Department of Defense, Office of Enterprise Technology Services, and county agencies.

“We appreciate everyone, including the cruise line representatives, coming together to finalize the required agreements to fulfill the CDC Conditional Sailing Order,” said Butay.

The announcement comes less than a week after the CDC warned people not to go on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, because of onboard outbreaks fueled by the omicron variant.

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